Since the 1790s, human beings have enjoyed the benefits vaccine science has had to offer. Ailments that once proved life-threatening to millions every year now are rarely experienced, some even eradicated. Life expectancies have been lengthened, worry has been lifted and children are more able than ever to safely reach adulthood thanks in large part to vaccines.
Long History of Vaccine Science
The first vaccine ever, the smallpox vaccine, was invented by the Englishman Edward Jenner. The concept of vaccination was revolutionary for health science at the time, and it has come a long way in the past two centuries. Vaccines for polio, tuberculosis, measles, influenza and others all came about in the 20th century.
Continued Development in Last Decade
Although many of the most dangerous illnesses of history have been immunized, there are still significant immunological developments being made by health scientists. Having access to resources like biological blood products [http://www.hemacare.com/] have allowed scientists to expand the ways they conduct research. In the past decade, five important vaccine breakthroughs stand out as pushing vaccination technology to the next level.
Rotarix, RotaTeq: Rotavirus Vaccines
The first pick is a two-for-one. The history of the rotavirus vaccine started in 1998. In 2006 and 2008, Rotarix (GlaxoSmithKline) and RotaTeq (Merck), respectively, were introduced to the market and are currently the only two vaccinations available. Both have the seal of approval from the FDA and have been found to be of substantial benefit.
Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea among infants and young children, which kills over 450,000 children a year. Vaccinations are said to have the potential to prevent 45% of these deaths.
Gardasil: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine
Research for an HPV vaccine started in the 1980s, but the first preventative vaccine was approved by the FDA in 2006. Gardasil, developed by Merck & Co., is still the most widely-used vaccine to prevent HPV, despite some controversy in the past few years over purportedly adverse side effects. However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend Gardasil as a safe and effective vaccine.
Researchers have found that HPV is nearly the exclusive cause of cervical cancer in women. According to the CDC, over 80% of women will contract a strain of HPV by the age of 50, although only a small percentage go on to develop cancer.
Pediarix: Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis/Hepatitis B/Polio Vaccine
It might be deduced from the title why this vaccine is so important. While no new vaccines were introduced per se, the development brought these vaccines together for the first time so that individuals could immunize for all five diseases at once. According to GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Pediarix, this move was meant to simplify the “crowded” vaccine market.
Prevnar 13: Pneumococcal Vaccine
The Prevnar vaccine was first introduced in 2000, but in February 2010, Prevnar 13 was developed. The latter provides immunization for an additional six serotypes in addition to those protected against in the original vaccine. Pneumococcal diseases cause over a million deaths a year worldwide.
Pneumococcal is a pathogenic bacterium that can lead to pneumonia, acute sinusitis, meningitis, septic arthritis, brain abscesses and other dangerous and potentially deadly conditions. While Prevnar 13 has improved the pneumococcal vaccine, there is still a ways to go, as certain strains are still not protected against.
Menactra, Menveo: Meningococcal Vaccines
The first meningococcal vaccine, Menomune, was introduced in the 1970s, but it is ineffective as a booster, as its effects only last around three years. In 2005, Sanofi Pasteur developed Menactra, and in 2010, Menveo was licensed by Novartis. Both vaccines are approved for ages two through 55.
Meningococcal disease is perhaps best known for being a cause of meningitis, but a more deadly potential is sepsis, a widespread blood infection. Untreated meningococcal disease carries a high mortality rate. The disease can be spread through saliva, though not as contagious as the common cold, and according to the CDC, about 10% of people are “carriers” of meningococcal.
Health scientists and immunologists continue to push the envelope and find new ways to improve the quality of life for humans. Research for cures and immunization are driven by individuals who believe in a potential world without deadly diseases. With every vaccine breakthrough, that possibly comes closer to fruition.